You’d think that the 9 bags above might indicate that my wife and I are planning a big move. You’d be wrong. Those 9 bags are all going to the Goodwill. Here’s another fun fact: we live in a one bedroom apartment. 9 bags of clothes, appliances, accessories, and knickknacks packed into a one bedroom apartment. You might think that we simply had piles and piles of things in our living room, just waiting for Hoarders to come and feature us on an episode. You’d be wrong again. The truth is, the contents of those 9 bags were strategically stowed away. Every drawer, every cupboard, every nook and cranny of our apartment was a hiding place for things we really didn’t use or need. I’d be willing to bet that it’s the same for most of us. When’s the last time you dug to the bottom of a dresser drawer and discovered a t-shirt you haven’t worn in years? How often do you stumble upon a long forgotten kitchen appliance collecting dust in the back of a kitchen cupboard? More common than you’d admit, right?
It wasn’t until my wife, Christina, and I sat down and watched the documentary Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things on Netflix that we opened our eyes to how much we have that we didn’t really need. The documentary interviews and follows the lives of a handful of people that call themselves “minimalists”. Essentially, a minimalist is someone who chooses to live with the minimal amount of “things” in their lives, getting rid of any excess. Minimal amounts of clothes, kitchen appliances, cars, etc. There was a wide variety in how each person chose to live their lives, but they all had the common theme of finding more value in life with less things. There were people who owned tiny homes, but also those that had 2,000 square foot houses. There were people who were single, carrying around 40-50 things in a backpack, going from town to town living as a nomad. But there was also a guy who was married with six kids, living a minimalist life within his own family.
The point is that the minimalist lifestyle took many forms within the documentary, but the value that each person or family got from their lives was very clear.
I first was intrigued by this minimalist lifestyle by two guys who were featured in the documentary, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. The two of them created and write for a blog entitled The Minimalists (http://theminimalists.com), where they write about their experiences while living this minimalist lifestyle over the last 5 years or so. They also have a podcast by the same name, where they field questions from readers, fans, and those intrigued about their lifestyle. I began listening to their podcast a few months back, and quickly became a fan. Their approach was less “do this because it works” and more “here is what worked for us, maybe it will work for you”. When I heard that they had helped create this documentary, I knew it was worth watching.
Ryan and Joshua were sort of the “main characters” of the film, using their voice to narrate the story of minimalism. One of my favorite quotes from the film was when Joshua was talking about decluttering his wardrobe. He was saying that it was hard to go from so many shirts, pants, and suits to just a few. But after he had shrunk his wardrobe to just a few things, he said “Now all of my clothes are my favorite clothes.”
It was with this quote’s purpose-finding massive value in the few things that you have-that Christina and I started to look at the “things” in our apartment a little differently. We started with the closet in our bedroom. I give her credit, she attacked that thing head on. I walked in after she had done some work to find a mound of clothes that she had decided to get rid of on our bed. Inspired by her purging, I joined in the fun and began to go through some of my clothes contained within our closet. What I discovered was that cleaning our closet and being intentional about “minimalizing” our closet was two different things. If we were simply cleaning up or tidying it a bit, I feel that we would have gotten rid of far less.
For example, I came across this blue zip-up hoodie that I used to wear all the time. It must have been buried under newer hoodies or other shirts that have been thrown into the closet carelessly. The point is, I hadn’t seen or worn the thing in probably 6 months to a year. If our intention was to simply tidy up our apartment, I probably would’v been pumped that I found a shirt that I used to love wearing. I would’ve put it on top of my new tidy pile to remind myself to wear it again, then moved on. Instead, with the intention of getting rid of things that didn’t bring us value, I got rid of it. If I hadn’t worn it in 6 months to a year, and I didn’t miss it enough to dig through my clothes and find it, it didn’t mean all that much to me in the first place.
So we dug through our closet, went through our drawers, and searched through our kitchen cupboards. When all was said and done, we had arrived at 9 bags full of “stuff”. 9 bags of things that didn’t bring us much value. It’s not that we didn’t use them at some point, but life tends to chug along without much reflection of “Does this bring me value anymore?”
Since we went through and rid our place of things we don’t really use, there hasn’t been a monumental shift in our daily lives. What it has given us is less clutter and more space both in our physical world and in our minds. We no longer have to dig through piles of clothes in our closet to get to what we want. We also don’t have to have our blood pressure spike when we open a cupboard and nervously try to grab something without it all coming tumbling out.
Overall, I’d say we feel a little lighter. We find value in everything that made the cut. Like Joshua said about his wardrobe, what we have left in our apartment are now all of our favorite things.
Until next time,
Facebook: Nick Matiash